Matrix protein of Vesicular stomatitis virus harbours a cryptic mitochondrial-targeting motif
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Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is a rhabdovirus that has attracted attention of late as an oncolytic virus and as a vaccine vector. Mutations in the matrix (M) gene of VSV yield attenuated strains that may be very useful in both settings. As a result of this interest in the M protein, this study analysed various M-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion constructs. Remarkably, fusion of the N terminus of the M protein to GFP targeted the fluorescent protein to the surface of mitochondria. Mutational analysis indicated that a mitochondrial-targeting motif exists within aa 33-67. Expression of these fusion proteins led to loss of mitochondrial membrane permeability and to an alteration in mitochondrial organization mirroring that seen during viral infection. In addition, a portion of the M protein present in infected cells co-purified with mitochondria. This work may indicate a novel function for this multifunctional viral protein.
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